“Have you never heard anyone speak positively about labor or birth before? If so, you are not alone,”
Ina May Gaskin writes in her AMAZING book Guide to Childbirth.
“There is extraordinary psychological benefit to belonging to a group of women who have positive stories to tell about their birthing experiences.”
That is what I want to create here. A sisterhood where we can share our positive stories.
If you are like me, you were raised on the back-foot of decades of terrifying depictions of labor in movies and other forms of pop culture. Women screaming in pain, red-faced in anguish, on the brink of death, crying, moaning… in the most excruciating pain of their lives.
I grew up on stories from my mother, detailing her 36 hour labors that would end in C-sections… and as a child, I used to (half) joke:
"I'm going to wait until medicine is advanced enough that they can just knock me out and then wake me up and hand me my baby." And when I was told that this actually used to happen, back in the days of ether, and that it was very dangerous and unhealthy, I would say, "Let's go back to that time. It sounds great!"
As I got a little older, I began thinking that a C-section sounded much better. "Just cut the baby out; what's wrong with that? Nice little scar across the tummy and my vagina will be perfectly in tact." (Of course, eventually when I had my gallbladder removed and I realized how difficult abdominal surgery actually is on the body--and that was just after a very simple, non-invasive laparoscopic surgery!--my opinion definitely changed!)
And, eventually, I decided that I'd much prefer adoption. Which is a sentiment I have heard countless friends of mine and other girls echo for the same reasons, to spare themselves the anguish of labor. Of course, I still love the idea--but for very different motivations! My husband and I might yet adopt one day, to give a child already born a loving home. But, not because I am scared of what childbirth will do to my body.
These decade-long catalogues of horrifying stories and fictional depictions that we were all exposed to are, I'm sure, based on truth. Plenty of women have had excruciating, awful labors. There’s a reason it is rightly called “labor” and not a synonym for “walk in the park”—it’s going to be the toughest challenge that we as women face (well, before the challenge of motherhood, that is.) But that does not mean that they are the only stories to tell.
I just bought this book by Ina May Gaskin and it is singing my song!! I could not recommend her any more highly--and I am only a couple of pages in! Already she writes, “So many horror stories circulate about birth--especially in the United States—that it can be difficult for women to believe that labor and birth can be a beneficial experience. If you have been pregnant for a while”—or in my case only 7 weeks!—“you’ve probably already heard some scary birth stories from friends or relatives. This is especially true if you live in a culture in which telling pregnant women gory stories has become acceptable.”
She goes on to quote a line from a Stephen King novella, “Believe me: if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Much of pain is in the mind, and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful—when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician—that woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony.”
Ina May writes, “The best way I know to counter the effects of frightening stories is to hear and read empowering ones.”
Ina May Gaskin, you are a wise woman!! Let us all take a page from your book!
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother